If you vote for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney and the other person wins, would you be mad enough to leave the country? Maybe you just want to blow off some steam at the beach. The upcoming presidential election is not only stressful for Obama and Romney, but also for the voters. Will the person I vote for keep their word about all the changes he will make? Will the person I vote for even win? If “the other guy wins,” JetBlue Airlines is offering a consolation prize.
According to jetblueelectionprotection.com, if you vote for one candidate and the other wins, you have a chance to “get a free flight out of the country with JetBlue.” All you have to do is go to the site mentioned above, “participate in our poll, and login to Facebook.” These are not just flights to the next state over; the choices include Bermuda, Costa Rica and Jamaica, to name a few.
JetBlue has the right idea. More people need to vote. This promotion gives people more incentive to vote. If the person you vote for wins, great. If he loses, at least you get a free flight to someplace warm. According to CNN, Michael McDonald, a professor at George Mason University, estimated that in the 2008 presidential election, “130.9 million ballots were cast by 61.5 percent of Americans who were eligible to vote.” So, only about three of every five Americans who were eligible to vote did so in the last presidential election. It does not matter what political views you have: every vote counts. If JetBlue needs to offer people a free flight to a tropical location in order to encourage them to vote, so be it.
However, I am a bit apprehensive about how successful this plan will be. If JetBlue does influence more people to vote, will it be because the free flight is a nice bonus or will it be solely for the free trip? If JetBlue gets a lot of people to sign up for this and most of those people sign up just for a free flight, it will not do the country any good. People vote in order to make the country they live in a better place, not for some reward. Picking the best person to lead this country should be the reward.
Also, what is stopping somebody from intentionally voting for the candidate you think will lose? Call me cynical, but what if a bunch of people who enter the contest believe Candidate A will lose the election, so on Election Day, they vote for Candidate A. What if thousands or even millions of people vote for that candidate because they think he will lose and they want a chance to win the trip? What if there are so many votes for Candidate A that he wins? I want our future president to be elected because the majority of American voters think he will improve our country, not because of some contest.
Also, if this promotion becomes so popular that millions of people sign up for it, JetBlue’s systems might flood. Other airlines have tried special promotions before and ended up with a big headache. In August, Southwest Airlines offered a deal for 50 percent off a round-trip flight to specific locations. However, the deal was so popular, Southwest’s online systems could not handle all the flights being booked through the offer. Southwest posted on their Facebook page, “Due to the overwhelming response, we experienced some site performance issues at various times throughout the day. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience and are proactively cancelling any duplicate itineraries that may have occurred.” The systems freaked out and somehow charged people for multiple flights, leading to some angry customers who had to wait hours to cancel their extra flights.
Southwest is not alone. Airlines are not the only businesses that have suffered from botched promotions. Kentucky Fried Chicken partnered with Oprah to promote their new Kentucky Grilled Chicken. On May 6, 2009, the Huffington Post reported that those who went to Oprah’s website could download a coupon that “can be redeemed for two pieces of grilled chicken, two individual sides and a biscuit.” However, the deal was so popular that some KFCs, including a Manhattan-based store, “ran out of its new grilled chicken,” and some “may have run out of some products, such as mashed potatoes and gravy or coleslaw.” KFC forgot one important detail: Oprah has godly power when it comes to influencing her audience. If you are going to hire such a big name to not only endorse your product, but also hand out free food from your store, you better have enough for everyone. While JetBlue may not have Oprah heading their Election Protection promotion, they still offer an enticing deal. They better reserve some extra planes.
While this deal is great and has the potential to influence people to vote, you have to remember the real reason you are going into that voting booth. If you are registered to vote, please do so. Just remember to vote for who you think will make the country a better place, not for a chance to fly to a tropical locale.
Jake Koniszewski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org